Ajax clash : United players expected to bring their A-gameUnited ‘not about to rest’

2011-05-20 00:00

MARITZBURG United travel to Cape Town tomorrow with the knowledge that they will be playing PSL football next season. This should be enough to provide them with the freedom to knock the ball around the pitch and have a real go at what will be a highly strung Ajax Cape Town side, who will know that a win over the Team of Choice would ensure that the PSL title is theirs, while anything less might not be enough.

Overwhelming favourites for the match, Ajax will have their previous league encounter with United at Harry Gwala stadium in January very fresh in their minds. The league leaders lost 3-0 that day, with Maritzburg’s goals coming from Gert Schalkwyk and Rudolf Bester, who found the net twice.

United were unable to produce similar performances, though, and were soon to find themselves in a relegation battle that was to last up until victory over Sundowns last weekend.

In the heat of the battle, a decision was taken by the club to replace a seemingly erratic coach in Ernst Middendorp with Ian Palmer, who had previously guided United to the PSL through NFD promotion in 2008, as the man tasked with the job to keep PSL football at Harry Gwala.

Palmer has done remarkably well to turn results around and has instilled a confidence in his players that appeared to be lacking under Middendorp. The victory over Sundowns came after Palmer’s men had shown great character to come back from a goal down away at Mpumalanga Black Aces — Diyo Sibisi was the hero that day with two goals in the space of seven minutes.

Palmer refuses to rest now that he has secured PSL safety, though, and has said that victory in the last game of the season would provide good continuity moving into next season — where United will be aiming for a top-eight finish.

“We should not be a side that is continuously fighting relegation and with the right mix of players I don’t see why we can’t compete for a top-half finish next season,” he said immediately after the Sundowns match.

Whether or not faces come and go in the off-season remains to be seen, but tomorrow’s match against a title-contending Ajax will certainly be a good way of gauging how far the current group of players has come under Palmer.

If United are to succeed in “ruining Ajax’s party”, then there will need to be a few standout performers who rise to the occasion of what is definately a massive game.

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